Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Harassed family gets 10k payout

Ombudsman report
The ombudsman reviewed the case after a complaint was recieved

A council has been ordered to pay 10,000 to a family after it failed in its handling of their complaints against neighbours who harassed them.

The public service ombudsman for Wales ordered Conwy council to pay the money after an inquiry into how it dealt with complaints against the tenants.

The ombudsman heard how the family had cars damaged, bricks thrown through windows and were racially abused.

The council said the report would now be considered by a committee.

Peter Tyndall, the ombudsman, ordered the council to pay the affected family, known as the Smith family, 2,500 for each of the four years of "maladministration and injustice" in its handling of complaints by the family about their neighbours.

Between 2003 and 2007, Mr Smith, who is disabled, his wife, whose first language is neither English or Welsh, and their young son lived in a property owned by Clwyd Alyn Housing Association.

Complaints

It was next to a house owned by Conwy council which had tenants in.

During that time, the Smiths complained on numerous occasions to the council about a number of incidents they said were carried out by their neighbours including having bricks thrown through their window on two occasions, six cars being vandalised, raw eggs thrown at them, verbal abuse and racial abuse.

However, the council was found to have failed to act on their complaints and the ombudsman found "repeated instances of maladministration".

During his investigation, the ombudsman found the Smiths had made several complaints against the council tenants and that there had also been five other complaints.

Man underlining words on a report
A number of complaints were made to Conwy council about the tenants

They included racial abuse, threats of violence, damage to cars, including battery acid being poured over a car, physical attacks, noise disturbance and a drunken garden party which lasted for three nights.

The police and housing association were also aware of the tenants concerned and various legal proceedings had been carried out against them.

'Breaking point'

But despite evidence suggesting the tenants were problematic to neighbours, the council continued to house them.

At one point, the tenants were told that eviction proceedings were in place but after they appealed, those were stopped.

The Smiths made several more complaints saying they were "at breaking point" and were living in a climate of fear and intimidation.

It was only when Clwyd Alyn Housing Association was able to get funding to purchase a suitable property for the Smith family that they were able to move.

It is unclear if the tenants are still at the property they were living in.

Review

The ombudsman carried out a thorough review of the case and referred to previously upheld ombudsman reports against Conwy council.

In his report the ombudsman said he was "concerned" to find in a "replication of previous failings to deal with anti-social behaviour" by the council.

He found a "continuing lack of knowledge" on the part of council staff dealing with enforcement action and criticised the authority's "over reliance" on the police.

He recommended a review of procedures and training with details to be submitted to him within three months and that another report would be placed before full cabinet by the council.

He also ordered the council to give a "fulsome and detailed" apology to the Smith family.

In the report, Conwy council said it "had worked closely with local residents, local councillors, North Wales Police and Clwyd Alyn Housing Association in relation to 'real and alleged problems'".

It also said it had "sympathy for the residents".

Conwy Council said the report would go to its constitution and maladministration review committee.

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